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We are bombarded with a plethora of commercials, day in and day out, which tell us our dogs are not receiving the proper nutrition unless we are feeding them x-brand of dog food. Oh no! Drop whatever you’re doing and go buy that brand right now! Your dog’s life depends on it!

Okay, we know our readers are more intelligent than that, but you get the idea. There’s always something newer and “better” coming out. But is all the new dog food all it’s cracked up to be? The packaging has pictures of fruits and veggies, so it must be healthy, right? Not so much. But how do we know what our fur babies really need? And how do we know if they are getting the right stuff?

So many questions – it’s enough to confuse anyone. Don’t fret! We are here to help you learn just exactly what nutrients your dog needs to be healthy and how to tell if he needs more… or less.

First and foremost, accounting for between 60 and 80 percent of your pet’s body weight, water is the most essential thing to provide your dog. A mere 10 percent deficiency can be fatal, so always make sure your fur babies have plenty of fresh water to drink. Animals need about 0.5-1.0 oz. of water per pound of body weight. If you ever think your pup may be dehydrated, you can perform the skin elasticity test to make sure they are getting enough water.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats

Think of fats as concentrated energy for the body. Some essential fatty acids for dogs are omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These fatty acids help with the proper growth and development of joints, organs, intestines, and tissue, and also lubricate the joints, digestive tract, and enhance heart health. Ideally, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be anywhere from 5:1 to 10:1.

Symptoms your dog is deficient in omegas include allergies, inflammatory diseases, yeast infections, skin and eye problems including and hyperkeratosis (thickening of the skin), organ problems, cancer, and even behavioral problems. If you are worried your pet is low on these essential fatty acids, you can purchase supplements from your vet or local pet store. Try a flax supplement or sprinkle ground flaxseed to homemade meals for your dog. You can even mix coconut oil with their food to help them get an added dose of omegas!

Always make sure to check with your vet before starting your pet on any new vitamin or supplement regimen.


A complete diet with all the necessary vitamins is crucial to your dog’s health, as most are not naturally synthesized. Dogs don’t require large amounts of vitamins, so most balanced meals should give your pet what they need. Keep your eyes out for these symptoms though!

Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A) Deficiency

A Vitamin A deficiency in dogs may be revealed with a weakened immune system (being prone to sickness), nighttime blindness, poor skin quality (especially dryness), and often occurs because not enough fat is eaten since Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. Good sources of Vitamin A that are safe for your dog include sweet potatoes (also helpful for digestion), pumpkin, carrots, greens, and winter squash. Adding a healthy source of fat such as flaxseed or flax oil, coconut oil, or even hemp oil will help your dog absorb these healthy fats and also assist with digestion.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Deficiency

A need for riboflavin will be indicated by stunted growth, flaky skin, eye problems, fainting, and can potentially result in heart failure. If your dog is taking certain antibiotics they may need a supplement of B2, so check with your vet! Whole grains, vegetables, and leafy greens all provide a good source of riboflavin in a dog’s diet.

Niacin (Vitamin B3) Deficiency

If you notice your dog’s tongue takes on a brown or black hue and you can see the papilla more prevalently, they might have the canine equivalent of pellagra, also known as “black tongue.” Other symptoms are inflamed lips and gums, lack of appetite, and bloody diarrhea. If not treated, it can be fatal. Niacin deficiency may also include seizures. But be careful, having too much Niacin can result in skin irritations, liver problems, and stomach ulcers. Vegetables are a great source of B vitamins, and so are whole grains. Include oats, brown rice, quinoa, and even sprouted grains in your diet if they tolerate them well. Generally, oats and brown rice seem to be the safest with sensitive systems.

Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) Deficiency

Some pretty severe health issues can be attributed to a lack of pyridoxine, including epilepsy and kidney damage. Deficiency can also be linked to allergies, asthma arterial disease, and even cancer. An excess of B6 manifests in damage to the nervous system. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, bananas, oats, and peanut butter all provide good sources of Vitamin B6.

Vitamin D Deficiency

A lack of Vitamin D can cause major problems in a dog’s bones. Dogs can develop swollen joints, bowed legs, and other symptoms associated with rickets. Too much can cause an increase of calcium storage in the heart and other muscles, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, hemorrhaging, excessive thirst and urination, lethargy, and bone pain. Since Vitamin D is harder to obtain through the diet, you may want to choose a good plant-based multivitamin that provides Vitamin D for your dog. Also, make sure they get plenty of sunshine through daily walks when possible. Sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D for us all!

Vitamin E Deficiency

If your dog is having problems with his eyes, heart, liver, muscles, or nerves, they very well may need more Vitamin E. Too much of it, though, can inhibit the absorption of vitamins A and K. Vitamin E is rich in almond butter, peanut butter, and healthy oils. Though avocados are also a good source, do not feed your pet avocados since many are sensitive to them and they may be potentially toxic.

Vitamin K Deficiency

Lack of vitamin K can cause hemorrhaging due to the body’s inability to clot blood. This is usually caused by the ingestion of rat poison or warfarin (brand name Coumadin), which is often prescribed to humans. If your pet gets into this it is imperative you get him to the vet IMMEDIATELY. Leafy greens are one of the best sources of Vitamin K, so mix some spinach or kale into your doggy’s food if you can, or choose a supplement that’s whole-food based!

Have a Healthy Dog

Remember, too, that symptoms can be caused by multiple deficiencies. For example, if your dog’s skin is dry and flaky, and his coat seems dull, your dog could be suffering from a deficiency of several vitamins. In this case, a general multi-vitamin may do the trick. Some of the deficiencies are very specific though and indicate more serious health problems, so always be monitoring your pet’s demeanor and physical appearance for any anomalies. Remember to always be aware of toxic foods for your dog if you’re choosing a home feeding method. Better safe than sorry!

As always, if Sparky seems truly sick, don’t hesitate to take him to your veterinarian. Also, make sure to check with your vet before starting any new vitamins or supplements. They may be able to provide you more insight on what is going on with your pup and how to fix the problem. We hope this little crash-course helps you and Sparky live a longer, healthier, happier life together!

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